Going to Springfield Ill. is a trip back into the past. Here Abraham Lincoln built a house and lived for 17 years, and from here he was elected to the Presidency. The Lincoln Presidential Museum, and Library, and House are all here, and so is the pew his family would city in at the Presbyterian Church just down the road from his house. While I was in Springfield on Monday to do an event for my Methodists, preaching and teaching them, I had Monday morning off, and I made good use of it, visiting the museum, the home the church, and viewing the courthouse and law office (which is closed on Mondays) from the outside. There is a first rate film on Lincoln’s life in the museum, as well as a current exhibit on Civil War weapons, injuries, and medicine… which I don’t advise going to see just before lunch.Along the way one learns that Lincoln’s paternal grandfather was also named Abraham, and was from Virginia. His family had moved there from Pennsylvania. Like Daniel Boone’s family, they were Quakers. Obviously our Abraham Lincoln had changed denominations by the time he was in Illinois, or at least had changed church attendance. But the Quaker heritage is important for understanding Lincoln, as they were often strict abolitionists.
One thing that impressed me from studying the exhibits in the museum is how early and often Lincoln made his opposition to slavery known, not just in the famous Lincoln Douglas debates, but also in his distress over bills passed that allowed each of the ‘territories’ to decide whether they would allow slaves or not. Like the debates even today over states rights, there are major implications of allowing justice issues to be decided state by state rather than by federal law.
I was also interested in the fact that Lincoln overcame various failed campaigns for office, and indeed overcame being jilted by one person he was engaged to, and then losing his earliest sweetheart to illness (Miss Ann Rutledge), before finally tying the knot with Molly from Lexington Kentucky. In fact of course, they were both from Kentucky, and at one juncture Lincoln sent them back to Lexington when he was elected to Congress as they could not make do in Washington in the spartan accommodations there.
Obviously, Lincoln was one of our greatest Presidents, and had he lived, Reconstruction would clearly have been very different. Lincoln wanted people to go back to their lives and work, and as he said, ‘liberality’ all around. But it was not to be.
I leave you with the Lincoln campaign wagon, a relic of a bygone era. We could certainly use some more Presidents like A. Lincoln. He was, as was often said then ‘fitted to the times’.